Here’s a little-known secret ---- I hate the New York Yankees. I mean, I really, irrationally hate ‘em. Some of my favorite people ---- good people, compassionate people, loving people, people this planet is blessed to have walk it’s surface ---- are Yankee fans and I admit, a little piece of me dies when I get reminded of that.
In fact, every day of baseball season, I check two scores ---- the Orioles game and the Yankees game. The only time that’s not true is when they play each other.
Now here’s another little-known secret ---- in creative writing, the bad guy, whether he’s a member of SPECTRE or a bad case of the jitters, is exactly as important as the good guy. A weak villain makes for a weak hero. A strong villain that challenges the hero and upsets his apple cart makes a dynamite hero.
In baseball, no team feels like they’ve really really won unless they take out the Yankees. The Yankees are such a titanic bad guy that even National League teams and fans hate them. When a National League team gets to the World Series, the fans either pray to play (and subsequently crush) the Yankees, or pray that some team like the A’s takes their asses out to make it a fair World Series fight.
The Yankees are such a good villain that every day of the baseball season I check the score of their game. They could be playing the Twins, the White Sox, the Mariners ---- teams I don’t really feel either way about, but I want to know the Twins dumped on the Yanks. I want the O’s to win, but I enjoy it just as much when the Yankees lose.
Baseball would be no fun if the Yankees sucked and would be hollow if the Yankees ever disappeared. Beating them is the greatest joy for non-Yankee fans of all types. They’re in our heads, no matter where or who they play. And you’re hard-pressed to find any fan, even a National League fan like a Brewers fan or a Rockies fan, who is indifferent to the Yankees. You might feel meh about the Reds, but you probably will never fell meh about the Yankees.
Now I ask you ---- can you write a bad guy who sticks in your readers’ heads that much? That readers pray gets his? A villain so unlikeable that it’s not good enough to know your hero won, but that your villain really got his ass handed to him?
I’ve said it before, folks ---- baseball is life. And it can teach you a ton about writing. So play ball for the jugular and get back to work.
As much as I hate (not hated, still hate) the 1980s, it had a few things going for it. One was Calvin & Hobbes. Two was The Far Side. Lastly was Not Necessarily the News.
NNTN was a show on HBO that featured a segment hosted by Rich Hall (yeah, the guy in the photo who looks like Moe the Bartender) called Sniglets -- words that should be in the dictionary, but aren't.
Would that this particular segment survive the years, but alas. Had it survived into the Internet Age, someone sooner might have come up with "prestofacebookeration."
This word is built off the Sniglet from the original NNTN list, "prestofrigeration." This is "the peculiar habit, when searching for a snack, of constantly returning to the refrigerator in hopes that something new will have materialized."
In the Internet Age, prestofacebookeration is the peculiar habit of constantly logging into Facebook in hopes that something interesting will have been posted. I'd considered "prestotwitteration" and other permutations, but nothing is quite the social media mirage that Facebook is.
So prestofacebookeration it is. The continuing delusion that there's anything of value being said on Facebook, and our need to find out.
If you want to play a little game, I'll tell you what's on Facebook right now: pictures of kids, pictures of pets, motivational placards, bacon references, women's empowerment slogans, promotions, and polemic rants. Go ahead and check if you don't believe me ... I'll wait ...
(Muzak plays, aaaannnnnnd...)
Was I right? Of course I was. and I'm not even magic.
Get off Facebook and get back to work.
Let's get this straight from the get-go ... I haven't lost any friends and I'm not going to sail away on a boat to nowhere. What I'm about to say is an observation on social media, nothing more.
I have to wonder at what point new people stopped giving a damn about getting to know me. In real life, I'm pretty eager to hide from new people (you should see how effortlessly I scare off anyone who looks like they might want to come over and converse with me). In fact, if there's one person absolutely no one ever wants to get to know in person, it's me.
I'm OK with that. But online, particularly on Twitter, I kinda miss getting to know new people. Moreover, I miss the conversations I used to have on Twitter with some people. I used to Twit-chat with a handful of people I rarely hear from anymore. And an irony has sunk in -- the more followers I get, the less anyone talks to me online.
I've been wondering why. Is it that all the people who'd ever like to talk to me have already found me, thus I've already reached my critical mass? Do I intimidate people with my language and what one friend referred to as my "special brand of Jersey crazy?" Do I seem unapproachable?
Or is it like anything else, where the guy who asks too many introspective questions just comes across like a whiny numbnut no one wants to get to know?
Whatever the case, I'm just wondering if anyone else has noticed this with their own social media presence. My guess is that the people I've known online have come to be discouraged by the low commercial yield and high personal-time investment of social media and have just stopped being online.
Still, that doesn't explain why new people are not getting to know me. I suppose my real-life persona has rubbed off on my online persona. Shame. The online me is so much more approachable than real-life me.
The attached video clip contains two of the best seconds I've experienced this year. As a newspaper reporter, I lived for interviewees who would talk like this. On the scene, nothing is better than someone willing to just be herself.
Michelle Clark: I'm kinda crushin' on you, baby. And your passionate onomatopoeia is as tattooed on my psyche as whatever this thing is on my neck is burned into my skin.
All this may sound facetious. I assure you it's not. I'm actually stunned by the swift and blinding fury with which Ms. Clark's "kapooya!" has taken over my ability to think past it.
But why? How did it happen? My theory:
1) It's unscripted. Ms. Clark's description of a hail storm was delivered in a moment that could never be repeated. Meaning it was genuine. Meaning I love it.
2) It's unapologetic. Watch the video again (I know you will). Watch how definitively, how at the jugular Ms.Clarke says that word. Nothing is held back, and there's nothing self-conscious. It is free-form poetry, and it's beautiful.
3) It's definitively her. No one else on Planet Earth would have described the sound of a hail storm as "kapooya." It is a triumph of self-expression and a perfect example of a signature voice.
So no. I'm not being sarcastic. I'm not being facetious. I'm telling you how one person just wrote some of the best copy I've ever come across.
She did it by being herself.
Write for the Jugular, folks.
I'm not one to comment on comments and feedback. Frankly, I think too many writers are too sensitive about their reviews, particularly the bad ones. Trust me folks, people are smart enough to weed through spam-like or otherwise stupid reviews of your books. Especially if the leaver of feedback is a serial bomber. Or goblin, or whatever the hell the word for "jackass" is today.
But I feel oddly compelled to address a piece of a review left for my short fiction collection, Stories My Evil Twin Made Up. A good review, actually. I quite liked it. The reviewer commented on how strange it is for him to be able to see the stories in his head, and yet there are almost no details in my writing.
It's one of the best compliments I've ever heard.
Yes, I write my fiction sparse. To me, the most effective writing is being able to tell a story in as few words as possible, with as few details as possible. I stay away from a lot of description for two reasons: I don't care what it looks like, and I want you to see it for yourself.
Bogging a story down in details is like bogging a salad down with too much dressing and pepper. You lose the flavor of the salad to the flavor of the dressing. There's no story if you spend your time telling me what everything in the room looks like.
As for you seeing it for yourself, I don't want to tell the reader what to see. It's always a disappointment when I have someone pictured in my head and then I either see the movie or come across a passage in the story describing him as nothing like I thought. It takes me out of the story.
I don't want to take you out of the story. I want you to read every word. I just don't want you to have to read any more than you have to.
Write for the jugular, folks!